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What do you do on New Years Day in Minnesota?
Kneeboard...obviously.

January 4, 2009
photos courtesy of Kurt Schmelzer

A few folks in Minnesota have taken the term 'crazy' to an all new level. These water skiing addicts will go to great lengths to get a fix of their favorite sport…even if it means breaking ice on New Years Day.

For over 40 years, water skiers and boarders in Minnesota have gathered together on the first day of the year to take a lap or two around any open water they can find. Kneeboarders, Dan Henning and Chad Beery, got involved in this crazy ritual last year and have repeated the stunt for 2009. “We’re going to do this every year”, said Dan, “It’s cold, but it’s a great time.”

Last New Year’s event, in 2008, it was 1 degree, with a 20 below windchill. “After boarding for less than ten seconds, my hands and feet were numb and one of my eye lids was freezing shut,” Chad commented. “This year was much better with temperatures in the 20’s.”

The usual gathering spot is on the Mississippi River, just below the Ford Dam in Saint Paul. For 2009, however, the tow boat ended up in the Minnesota River due to the drive to the Mississippi River location being to icy. Chad replied, “They had to break ice from the boat launch to open water that was about a hundred yards up river. The open area was only about the size of a football field. So we went around in circles.”

The boat, well covered in ice, would pick up the skiers on the bank, shuttle them up river to the ice shelf, pull them off the ice and around the open water, and then ski them back onto the ice. “It was a good time this year. I slid off the ice, went around one time, threw a couple of flips for the crowd, and then slid back on the ice. I didn’t even get wet”, said Dan. He was one of the crazier folks in the bunch since he wore only a shorty wetsuit, gloves and a bomber hat. Chad wore what most wore, including a dry suit, hood, gloves and socks. “I went around a couple times this year and stayed warm. It was awesome,” said Chad.

So, will Dan and Chad be back again next New Years Day? You can count on it.

For more pictures of the New Year’s event click here.


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